Articles featuring photography by Tony Collins

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The Music Council at the Stag & Pheasant

Review

After several months of being off the scene for health reasons, my wife and I were lured out on Friday 25th January at the prospect of a new band at a new (for us) venue. The band, "The Music Council" is a varying number of members around the base of a trio of extraordinarily talented people. Nicky Newman on keyboard and vocals, Kieran Taylour on Bass guitar and vocals with Dutch Van Spall on guitar. Some may recognise the names as Dutch and Nicky are directors of Big Help Music an academy for young aspiring musicians to learn their trade. Kieran is of course a prolific singer songwriter in his own right.

 

Before the main event, we were treated to performances to backing tracks by some of the younger members of the academy who are benefitting from the nurturing and encouragement they are receiving at Big Help Music.

 

First up was James B a thirteen year old from Southam. He possess a fine melodic and surprisingly mature voice for his age as demonstrated by his rendition of "My Universe" as recorded by The Shires. It was a good start to the show and most enjoyable. His venture into RAP was slightly less successful as he was hampered somewhat by the backing track being a touch too loud. His compensation for this made Bars & Melody's "Hopeful" sound a little over performed. However we were back on more sturdy ground with Ed Sheeran's "Castle on the Hill" which was his best number in my opinion. This lad has talent and this was amply demonstrated by his closing song, Olly Murs' "Right Place, Right Time" He is actually in the right place at the right time being a member of Big Help Academy who will teach him stagecraft and performance skills.

 

Caitlin McCarthy is a pretty thirteen year old girl from Coventry who has a soulful but powerful voice. The opening bars of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" set the hair on the back of my neck at a stand. That one so young could grasp the concept of the blues and perform this noted song in such a way leaves me in wonder. Not only did she carry it off, she smashed it. "Carry You Home" a James Blunt number again demonstrated her command of emotional material. A third song displaying emotion was "Lost Without You", so we get the impression that this girl loves the genre. However, she amply handles passion and power too as "River Deep Mountain High" showed us. This is a young girl has made mark with me and I look forward to seeing her again.

 

The third young member of the BHA on stage this night is Theo Gladman from  Tamworth. I have seen this young man before, most recently at a Christmas concert in Rugby. He is benefitting from his time spent with Nicky, Dutch and the other professionals brought in to acquaint the youngsters with how to present themselves to an audience. His choice of material suggests he has an interest in thoughtful and sincere songs. This is no bubblegum pop singer we have here. Franklin James'  "I want you to be happier" conveys hope and care for another. He is not afraid to tackle more serious, difficult songs as his closing number illustrates. "Impossible" which has been recorded by several, but the version by James Arthur most resembles Theo's contribution. He is worth watching.

 

There is no fourteen year old that I know who is happier on stage than Thea Watson. Despite being dressed entirely in black, she brightened everyone's night the moment she appeared. I don't know how many adjectives can be applied to this young lady, confident, funny, witty and able to respond to audience reactions are just the beginning. Her long blonde hair flies about as she bounds with energy. It was no surprise therefore that her opening song was the lively George Michael classic "Faith" this went down very well and had the place jumping.  A complete contrast was the Julia Michaels' song "Issues" this one stopped the pub. You don't take on a song challenging as this unless you are extremely confident that you can carry it off. With the incomparable Nicky Newman on piano, Thea didn't just carry it off, she knocked it down and dragged it off by the hair. You could have heard a pin drop as the audience fell silent. It was more than impressive, it was spectacular.  Contrast that with Bruno Mars' "Count on me"  followed by "I don't Want To Se You Any More" The power as well as control this girl has was delivered in the show stopping  "Power Of Love."

 

Trinity Trappett  is developing nicely from being a rather gauche young girl who sang a bit, into a experienced singer with an eye towards glam. Her long platinum blonde hair combined with her trademark blue lipstick, she cuts a figure that broadcasts "stage" in her appearance.  Sixteen year old Trinity actually started the evening as Compere for the younger element, before taking over the sound desk as the older artists appeared. Her own set consisted of an eclectic mix of styles starting with a teenage favourite "Riptide" which contrasted greatly with "Strawberry Wine" a bit of Good 'ol Country music. Trinity with her luscious hair draped over her shoulders could have been on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, she sounded and looked that authentic. Throw in "A Thousand Years" from Christina Perri and you begin to see what I mean by eclectic.  A curved ball immediately followed which threw a lot of us. we were not expecting David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" from his slightly weird Ziggy Stardust period. Trinity could hardly have chosen a  bigger song to finish. I think with some trepidation she launched into Queen's "Somebody To Love." This one got the bar staff applauding, nuff said? I think so.

 

At this point in the evening The Music Council took to the stage. From that moment the music was predominantly live. The previously mentioned band members, Newman, Van Spall and Taylour provided their own backing to not only their own songs, but that of a plethora of other BHM artists. "Wake me up before you GoGo" was their lively opener, they were then variously joined by Lorna Dea, Thea Watson, Elan Marie O'Callaghan, Trinity Trappett and Caitlin McCarthy, in fact the personnel changes were so quick that at times it was difficult to keep up with them. I can only list highlights but even then there were so many. Lona and Dutch teamed up for a Suzanne Vega song I've been know to have a go at myself (yes in public, poor people) "The Queen and the Soldier" It was good to hear it done properly. Nicky sang Adele's "When We Were Young" with the band behind her. Elan Marie brought her guitar and with Dutch and Kieran bearing two more, sang "Hotel California". Lorna did "Young Hearts Run Free", Nicky and Kieran reprised their "Beauty and the Beast" triumph from the Christmas show. This is just a snippet of the good music before us on Friday night. The band had customers dancing in the aisles it was a really good night out, and the best thing it is all going to be repeated on the third Friday of every month.

 

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Tierra Buena Jazz Band at "The Ansty"

Review

A superb night was had by one and all at The Ansty on Monday 22nd October. Tierra Buena is a band that has been together since I was a lad, (I am now approaching my 78th year). They have a regular Monday night gig at the Grove Road club in Ansty, just off Junction2 of the M6. Ostensibly a New Orleans traditional jazz band, the listener can expect any number of different styles, including Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, and many others including, just for example, Fats Waller. They are just as likely to play Latin American style too. Their set list usually comprises of just two or three numbers to get started, thereafter it seems to be composed almost entirely of requests from the audience. Their portfolio is counted in hundreds of numbers and you will hear songs and tunes that are both familiar and new (to you).

 

The regular personnel of Brian Bates, leader, (Cornet and Vocals), Dave Wagstaff, (Banjo/Guitar), Al Sharp, (Drums), Dave "Spud" Taylor, (Clarinet and Tenor Sax) and John McIntosh (Bass) were supplemented on this occasion by Avo Avesson (Trombone), due to the enforced indisposition of founder member,  Brian "Watty" Wathen. We all wish Watty a speedy recovery, I have yet to see a musician who enjoys his playing more, (although I suppose Paul Richards, percussionist with the Folk/Rock band "Fred's House" runs him a close second. If there were an award for the "happiest drummer" Paul's name would definitely appear on it. The closeness of the Tierra Buena Jazz Band ensures that everyone, especially, but not exclusively, the audience enjoys their playing.

 

It is some months since I last mentioned them in these pages, although I do try to get to one of their gigs every couple of months. There is no doubt they are tremendous value, £5 on the door and drinks at club prices. Every Monday night, 8.00pm until 10.30pm, a good and varied night of excellent music is guaranteed. 

Sorry the photo is so poor, I only had my phone with me and the lighting was not great, the music was superb though!

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Live Music Lives Locally

News

Live music lives in our area!

 

Two captivating, yet very different concerts are coming up in the next few days, not many miles apart, sharing one thing, they both feature live music. On Saturday 28th July at St Peter's Church Leire L17 5HD starting at 7.30 pm a charity concert entitled "A Summer Evening With Katie Marshall" this fabulous 17 yr/old award winning classical Soprano will be singing many well known classical and cross-over pieces that will surely delight her audience. She will be in the company of The Musical Village Choir who have been on tour with Russell Watson no less. The event is in aid Sponsor Stars. www.sponsorstars.org Advance Tickets Only – £10.00 Includes a glass of wine or juice and canapés. Tickets can be obtained by ringing either Chrissie on 01455 202165 or Rob on 07921 860107 e-mail: rob239073@hotmail.com

 

Two days later in one of their regular gigs, the Tierra Buena Jazz Band, one of the country's longest established  jazz bands majoring in (but not exclusively) New Orleans style Traditional Jazz will be playing at the Ansty Club. Grove Road, Ansty CV7 9JD. This band has an extraordinary repertoire having been in existence since 1958. The of the current band members were in the original band. They have been playing together so long that they seem to have a telepathic sense of what the next man is going to do.  I doubt they play the same tune in the same way twice. I have been to several of these regular Monday evening and always end up being rejuvenated by the music they so clearly enjoy playing. Tickets £5 on the door, start at 8.00pm   

 

I will be at both of these events to make a really exquisite musical weekend.

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Big Help Music Showcase @ The Fusilier

Review

I have been attending the Big Help Music Showcases on and off for a number of years now, but the event at The Fusilier on 20th July 2018 was something special.

 

On the face of it we could expect a fairly run of the mill show, where the young artists under the tutorship of Dutch Van Spall, Nicky Dawn Stewart and the team at BHM get the chance to experience appearing in a somewhat noisy but appreciative Friday night pub crowd. 

 

On this night something happened to make them all pull out their best performances and how!  Opening one of theses nights is always difficult as you have to get the attention of the audience. Elan Marie O'Callaghan has always been able to do that, she commands attention, not through power or volume, but by the quality of her voice singing in two languages. She accompanied herself on her electric guitar, which can be challenging. Elan is quite confident and justly so and this is conveyed to the audience. Her cheerful personality reaches out to everyone in the room.

 

Lorna Dea was in charge tonight as she often is, doing a super job of running the evening and her next job was to introduce a young man on his Fusilier debut. Twelve year old Theo Gladman looked nervous, but by the time he was halfway through his first song he had found his stride. I did gesticulate to him to take his hands out of his pockets, but I think this was a manifestation of his nervousness. Later in his set I regained my seat, where unfortunately such was the crowd, I was unable to see him, but this allowed us all to just enjoy the sound of him singing. He did well and we soon forgot it was his first time on one of these showcases.

 

Lorna Dea got her chance to perform next. She is a Fusilier favourite, has a lovely friendly style and is well able to match with backchat, the good natured comments in the song intervals from the regulars and staff at the pub. She is a good commére and an even better song writer. We all loved her new song "In Too Deep" which joins her growing catalogue of self-penned compositions. She does good covers too, one that I had not heard her sing before was "Pack Up" by Eliza Doolittle. which contains a line or two from a well loved World War 2 song.

 

Ree Reesby is a demonstration of what Big Help Music can do for a talented youngster. Eight months ago this fifteen year old was a bag of nerves with a good voice. She was so stiff with fear that she virtually had to be carried on to the stage and placed in front of the microphone. Ree has been gaining in confidence ever since. This night she was so animated in her performance that it was difficult in low light condition to get a photograph of her. Not only that, her singing has improved too as indeed has her whole act. Her parents are so proud of their daughter's development with every justification. This is a very different girl who I first saw in December at the BHM Christmas Concert. It says something for the talent spotting of the company that they had the confidence to put her into that show, even though she would have preferred to be almost anywhere else that evening. She was brilliant.

 

Abz Winter recently came third in a competition to find the most talented singers in the Rugby area. She was robbed. What a voice this girl has. Big power ballads are her thing. However she opened her set with an up tempo version of "We don't have to take our clothes off" in the style of Jermaine Stewart. Then in complete contrast a very emotional and spine tingling rendition of Queen's "Only The Good Die Young" which had some of the audience in tears. There was added poignancy because the following week she was to attend the funeral of a friend recently passed. This girl can ring the changes and proceeded to do so by going into RAP next, closing her set by not just singing, but delivering the powerful "I (who have nothing)" by special request of  Sean the barman who is a character all on his own. My wife requested a coffee (her second) and he produced it in a pint pot mug full to the brim. I assume he didn't want to make a third.  

 

Beth Dyson From Nuneaton is a lovely girl, who has both a mature and fun side when selecting her songs. I certainly did not expect to be singing along with Connie Francis' "Stupid Cupid" on a Friday night in the Fusilier. I think my wife and I were the only ones in the room apart from Beth who knew the words. Then she went straight into an Amy Winehouse song (what a loss that girl was). The maturity of her song selection is matched by that of her voice. I would love to hear her and Abz Winter do a duet in a suitable song, - it would be awesome. Beth has an EP coming out in October, she has already started filming the videos for it. We look forward to seeing them. Another classic song ended her set the immortal "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps."

 

What do you call a sound engineer, who is also a personal trainer, a guitarist, singer and song writer? Kieran Taylour that's what. He is a consummate performer who actually won the competition mentioned above and is rightly in demand for dinners, weddings and family gatherings. I also heard a rumour that he features in one of Beth Dyson's videos as an artists model. His set comprised of a mixture of covers and some of his own excellent original songs. I always enjoy seeing him perform and I know for a fact that I am not alone in that.

 

Something happened this night, to make all the artists excel in their own special way. It was quite the best of the BHM showcases I can remember. They are held three times a month at the Bear in Rugby, plus The Fusilier and the Waterside Inn, which are both in Leamington. Keep an eye out for the line ups and dates, Next one? The Bear, Rugby 3rd August, all are free entry, but you have to buy your own beer. See you there?

Tony Collins

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Folk on the Water Festival final night.

Review

The plethora of summer music festivals that take place around the world offer music lovers many opportunities to see top-flight and established artists in anything from small intimate settings to vast multi-stage corporate events.  They also give the chance for up and coming artists to play to bigger crowds than they might otherwise attract.

 

Now ten years old, The Folk On The Water Festival (FOW) supporting Zoe's Place, the only Midlands based Baby Hospice, is one that attracts good crowds at the various venues (pubs) that it uniquely visits in it's travels around South Warwickshire by canal boat. It is also one that takes younger artists perhaps making one of their early appearances, more of this anon.

 

In recent years it has culminated at the Folly Inn at Napton on the Hill. The setting is in a natural amphitheatre where everyone has a good view of the semi-permanent stage. This year, with the British summer consisting of more that three sunny days and a thunderstorm, the event was blessed with beautiful weather which is always a bonus.

 

Every year the festival hosts an "Artist in Residence" who travels round in the boat and appearing at every venue, sometimes more than once. This year that honour fell to Elan Marie O'Callaghan from Derbyshire who spent the time learning new songs and how to steer a narrow boat as well as everything that goes with it. This eighteen year old is a tall girl in tall shoes with a melodic voice to match her stature. She commands attention through her quality of performance and persona. This is something that she is learning as part of the Big Help Academy where talented youngsters are nurtured in the art of stagecraft, song writing and all aspects of securing a career in music. Many of it's former students are now well know performers, producers and videographers working with national and international organisations. Elan Marie is moving along the path of learning her trade, accompanying her own singing on guitar, writing her own songs in both English and Spanish and developing as a performer. This girl is one to watch.

 

One of the best blues guitarists in the country is Jack Blackman, who, on one of his trips to the Mississippi Delta was told "Son, we can't teach you nuttin' about playing the blues," by one of the players over there. He delighted us with several of his originals and other songs and the audience were mesmerised by his skills and dexterity. including "Hognose Gin" "Police Dog Blues" and "I'm So Blue." The rattier side of a travelling musician was also depicted when he sang a song about someone who played in a wedding band, found themselves rattling along in the back of an old van on New Year's Eve going from one gig to another, pondering, "where did the dreams of Rock 'n Roll go?"  Jack contrived not to have to play an encore by breaking a string, but was thwarted by organiser Dutch Van Spall who rapidly produced his own precious guitar "Kevin" for Jack to play. Such was the skill that Jack displayed that Dutch later said he didn't think he would ever be able to play that guitar again and take it seriously.

 

In order to demonstrate that the music at FOW is not all folk, it is more music that folk play, Roz Bruce was invited back. I say back, because many years ago she was the artist in residence at the festival. Roz has been described as "the female equivalent of Jimi Hendrix" (who played a festival or two himself in his day). Roz puts a lot of work into her songs, the lyrics especially are clever, sometimes funny and clearly not always suitable for a family audience (We got the expurgated versions on this occasion.) There is an urgency and often aggression in her delivery which I found intriguing and interesting if not always musically to my taste. She has some unusual ideas, for example Roz and her band are working on an album called "Shelf Indulgence" where each song is based on a book. The example she chose for this performance was "Lolita" and the song explored the innocence and growing sexuality of the subject. It is a song that I would very much like to hear again. She also explored the experiences of a woman badly treated  by married lover in "I'm Not A Crook". Roz is a big Leonard Cohen fan and contrived to get the audience singing along with "Hallelujah" as her closing number.

 

Wilson Wright (Hilary and John) are a couple well known on the midlands folk circuit their voices and instruments being well matched. They sing well known songs with their own bent and write new material themselves. They opened their set with a song that celebrated Abraham Maslow's book "The Psychology of Science" with (when all you got is a hammer) "Everything Looks Like A Nail"  which contains the complaint "They show you how to shoot, they show you how to kill, but they don't you show what to do if..." Hilary's original song "In The Duke's Room" was written in the room at Dalmally Station where the Duke of Argyle would await his train. It seems it is now an Airbnb where the resident dog, Angus has been know to get on the train and end up in Glasgow. John gave a brilliant emotional performance of the Jimmy Cox standard "Nobody Needs You When You're Down And Out." Another original closed the set "Wild Geese" depicts "shifting along with the sand, trying to make the shore." It seems that the pair will soon be able to spend more time watching wildlife as they complete a move to the North coast of Scotland, when Hilary starts a new job. John as a photographer of note will no doubt be in his element. We will miss them. 

 

The variety of music available at FOW continued with the set provided by Lorna Dea whose love and speciality is Soul and Motown. This interest is reflected in her own compositions which comprised more than half her set. She has two EP's out, the title track of the first being "My Spark", it also features my own favourite of her songs, "My King" which she wrote and sang as dedication to her father who was celebrating his 70th birthday at the event. BBC Introducing have taken more than a passing interest in Lorna's music and have featured her songs on several occasions. Her down to earth and friendly nature comes over to the audience and she couldn't hide her delight when part of the crowd started dancing to her song "Only One." She is such a nice girl, she didn't even laugh when I fell over after taking photo of her on stage. Lorna is a looker too as she occasionally works as a photographic model.

 

Doubling as both sound engineer and performer was Kieran Taylour. His beaten up Martin guitar is beginning to show the work it has done over the years busking and gigging around the circuit. He is currently recording his first EP at Strawhouse Studios for release in the autumn. His set is all good festival fare popular with audiences and rightly so as he projects his music so well. His song are clear, toe tapping and direct and each has a powerful narrative. The original song featured were  "Please See Me" a tale of someone wanting to be noticed by another, "Movie Screens" and a beautiful song, "Daddy's Girl" about an absent father, who may not be there physically, but his spirit remains.

 

Kieran was joined on stage, by consummate performer, music teacher and voice coach, Nicky Stewart. they did that well-known standard "Sweet Child of Mine" as a power duet.  This was followed by Ed Sheeran's "Perfect" which I had not heard before live as a male/female duet. It was fabulous.

 

Nicky had her own spot in the afternoon section of the show. with included such crowd pleasers as "Love You I Do" (with Lorna Dea), Lucie Silvas' "What You're Made Of " and the big Madonna hit "Cherish". Power ballads and rockers are her bag and she has the most incredible voice with a range that astonishes. It is no wonder that the youngsters in her care at Big Help Music, (she is Creative Director) do so well they cannot fail to be inspired by someone who not only has talent, but also the ability to put across, the both the basics and the nuances of how to perform on stage. You cannot fail to be impressed by a performance of Nicky Stewart.

 

Quite the most inspirational act over the whole festival was the appearance of The Invisible Friends (TIF) Choir. Every one of it's members are suffering from illnesses and disabilities, often chronic, that are not immediately apparent, thus invisible. This group of people (now a registered Charity) formed in Derby under the guidance of one of the bravest people I know, Abbie Tabberer, who herself is in an out of hospital more often than a porters coat. This choir so impressed the Mayor of Rugby that he invited them to sing at his Robing Ceremony. The effort that these people put in simply getting to the gig bends the mind, They are based in Derby yet perform all over the midlands. Abbie's dedication has been recognised by an invitation to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and subsequently to Buckingham Palace for a Royal Garden Party meeting Prince Charles who was so impressed by her work. After all that they put of a great show for us. 

 

The closing spot of the evening session, indeed that of the whole 2018 festival itself was occupied by NUNC, stalwarts of the Nuneaton Folk Club. The quartet brought two guitars , three part harmony and a lot of fun to the event. Their first act was to inform everyone that "We're All Gonna Die Someday" and followed this by the appropriate in the circumstances "Lay Your Body Down." Just in case of doubt remaining the next song was "Angel From Montgomery!" They weren't kidding were they? Did I say they brought some fun to the proceedings?   Escape appeared to be on the horizon when Richard Thompson's "I got to the Border" appeared in the set, quickly followed by Woodie Guthrie's "Vigilantè Man." Perhaps observing certain members of the crowd, another Richard Thompson song encouraged audience participation "Down Where The Drunkards Roll."  Recognising the canal-side location (as indeed all the venues for the festival are) The band broke into Fairground Attraction's "Perfect". The video of which depicts Edi Reader dancing along the hatch covers of a narrow boat whilst in mid-stream. (I remember being both fascinated and as a boater, horrified at the prospect at the time.).

 

I mentioned earlier that FOW has a special section for younger artists to try out their skills among these were twelve year old Theo from Coventry, who treated the crowd to three songs, including tempting the weather with "Rain."  He says his interests are in musical theatre.  Theo was followed by Thea Watson, also twelve years old who not only sang solo, but a duet with the fabulous Nicky Stewart and more than held her own in so doing. I see Thea heading towards TV presentation in the future. She takes charge on stage and exudes confidence, directing operations around her. Thea's final song was Aston Merrygold's "Get Stupid" in which she demonstrated that comedy is not lost on her. The final young girl I want to mention is Tuso Madiri from Luton fifteen years old too, gave us a twenty minute set singing and playing her ukulele. As might be expected her set was all covers, which she performed very well, everything from "Build Me Up Buttercup", to "(Sitting on) The Dock of The Bay" and other contributions from the likes of Crowded House, Lionel Ritchie and Emilie Sandie filled her allocated time.

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